1.0 Background of the Study
Communication cut across all aspects of human existence. It is elemental to human existence; no human association can cohere without communication (Brown & Udomisor, 2015).
Mass media, an institution that gathered and disseminates information about varieties of issues bothering on society, economy, religion and politics is critical to the development of such areas. Hardly can any sector of the society effectively function, that is if there is any that can function, without communication (Ike & Udeze, 2016). Lasswell (1969) cited in Olayiwola (1991) itemizes three functions performed by the mass media, thus, surveillance of the world to report on-going events; interpretation of the meaning of event, and socialization of individuals into their cultural setting.
Media also have some political importance; that is, deliberate manipulation of political process. This function of the media it was believed, affects the lives of individuals, groups and social organizations, as well as the course of domestic and international politics (olayiwola, 1991). By reporting politics, citizens are engaged in the business of governance by informing, educating and mobilizing them, as well as building peace and social consensus. Through investigative reporting of issues in the politics, accountability will prevail. Retired General Obasanjo notes Bolaji (1950) cited in Olayiwola (1991) acknowledged the responsibility of the mass media in politics in a speech lifting the ban on partisan politics in 1978 as “interpreting and informing the public of the issues, as well as correctly conveying the public mode to those vying for political leadership.” The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended also recognized the crucial role the press could play in national integration and development where it says “the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people” (Nigeria, 1999).
In the Nigerian political sphere, the mass media have been deeply involved with politics, and have also been vital to political development of the country (Ike & Udeze, 2016, p.116). It has been given some quite outstanding contributions towards the development of politics and political communication, which according to McNair (2011) is a purposeful communication about politics. The media in Nigeria started as a vehicle for social interaction and information dissemination, but later metamorphosed into a weapon for canvassing nationalist ideas and propagandas aimed at wrestling the political and economic hegemony from British colonialist (Imhonopi, 2004). Golding (1983) in Ike & Udeze notes that “the Nigerian press was born of anti-colonial protest, baptized in the flood of nationalist propaganda and matured in party politics.” This is an indication that the press in Nigeria has some political underpinnings. The influence of the media in the political development in Nigeria dates back to the pre-independent era (Irabor, 2015). The nationalist used the media, most especially the newspaper to enlighten the masses, shape their opinion and created favourable dispositions that led to the country’s independence.
The newspaper, a component of the mass media is an important medium that carry messages that enhances the democratic system and good governance in Nigeria’s political development. It was primarily used to by government already in power and those politicians aspiring to be in any political power. It is important to understand that newspaper development was largely influenced by politics in Nigeria which in return, help shapes politics and give it a direction. Prior to independence of Nigeria, the newspapers published are majorly political. The first newspaper in Nigeria, Iwe Irohin produced by the colonialist government is purely politically based. It was used to publish the activities of the colonial government. Subsequent newspapers that followed by and large adhere to the model. The West African Pilot, The Guardian, New Nigerian newspaper and most of the published state-owned newspapers like Triumph in Kano, Trumpeter in Bauchi, Standard in Kwara, The Scope in Adamawa, and The Voice in Benue among others. These newspapers create political awareness and serve the watch dog function.
While Dare (1985), in Aghamely observed that during the colonial struggle, indigenous newspapers became a rally point against colonial inequalities and injustices to seek and demand freedom, to protect the people’s interests, and to educate them about the present and the future, Santas (2016) believed that Nigeria achieved her independence in 1960 through the instrumentality of the press.
Newspapers promote human freedom and gives voice to masses and political actors in the political sphere.
1.1 Statement of the Problem
Media as one of the social institutions have an important role to play in the development of the political sector. It has the responsibility of reporting to their audience, issues and happenings in politics, that are considered relevant in order to create, remind, re-enforce or re-awaken the consciousness of the people towards politics. Reporting political issues by the media also help in holding the government accountable to the people. It provides people with information to formulate their own opinion and participate in community, local or national matters that will affect them.
Lack of political knowledge and awareness by the people led to political ignorance, which means, knowing little or nothing about government which becomes difficult to hold political leaders accountable for their performances. Another problem likely to occur is the deprivation of people’s political rights. By this, people will not be equipped with the necessary knowledge they should know in politics, thus end up of being abuse of their right. This could be their right to choice of candidate during electioneering, their right to vote and voted for, and their right to hold government accountable. Those saddled to rule tend to misuse the mandate given to them, leading to bad governance, which is a cause for underdevelopment. In the same vein, lack or no knowledge and awareness about politics can lead to manipulation of people’s mind, resulting to luring them to achieving an end.
Nonetheless, if media will fully assume to their responsibility of enlightening the people on issues concerning politics, through reportage, the problem can be solved. By reporting and publishing about politics, people will get to be aware and have the knowledge of their political right. This will further curb the problem of deprivation of right, political ignorance, manipulation of people’s mind to achieve an end and bad governance, a result of which is under development in any society. Considering the problem, this study will be concerned with the reportage of political issues by the Nigerian newspaper.
1.2 Aim and Objectives
This study is aimed at examining how the Nigerian media treats political issues.
1.2.1 Research Objectives
Towards achieving the aim of this study, the objectives are thus;
1. To determine the kind of political issues mostly reported by the Nigerian newspapers.
2. To examine the prominence giving to political issues by the Nigerian newspapers.
3. To find out the frequency of reporting political issues by the Nigerian newspapers.
1.3 Research Questions
1. What are the kinds of political issues mostly reported by the Nigerian newspapers?
2. Are political issues given any prominence by the Nigerian newspapers?
3. How frequent do Nigerian newspapers report political issues?
1.4 Significance of the Study
This study will be of significance to newspapers in Nigeria by providing them with useful and usable information that will enable them re-look at their roles in bringing about political stability and development in society.
Political actors will equally find this study useful as it will help them re-examine how they go about with their activities and how they present themselves in the political circle. Also important is how their relationship with the media affects political stability of the nation.
The masses will be able to anticipate how the relationship between the media and the political class could lead to manipulating of their consciousness away from truth and reality.
1.5 Scope of the Study
This study is delimiting itself to examining the reportage of political issues by the Nigerian newspapers focusing on Leadership and Vanguard newspapers. The time span for this study is from January to March 2019.
1.6 Limitation of the Study
The major problem of this study is that the result cannot be generalized or applicable to other newspapers except the sample newspapers selected for this study.
1.7 Definition of Key Terms
1. Reporting: Here it means covering an event by newspapers.
2. Politics: in this context, politics means activities relating to power struggle, policy making and influencing, political party activities etc.
3. Issues: in this case, it refers to the things that general public would find important in the newspapers relating to politics.
4. Newspapers: it is daily or periodical publication consisting of news, editorials, opinion etc. for this study; it means Leadership and The Vanguard newspapers.
1.8 Brief about the Newspapers
1.8.1 Leadership newspapers
It is a daily national newspaper published by Leadership Newspaper Group, based in Abuja, Nigeria. It was born on the 1st of October, 2004. It is a national newspaper with the mission of standing for good governance, defending the interest of the Nigerian State even against its leaders and raising pen at all times in deference of what is right. The newspaper writes on its website, “We shall never, ever, for any reason forget the noble reason of our coming into being; for God and Country”. Leadership newspaper became a daily newspaper on February 1, 2006. As a daily, the newspaper has been publishing LEADERSHIP: Leadership Friday; Leadership Weekend; Leadership Sunday; Leadership Hausa; Cognoscenti, a 16 page magazine pull-out in
Leadership Weekend, as well as CEO Confidential – a 12 page magazine pull-out in Leadership Sunday.
The newspaper has as its target audience all those interested in the political, cultural, business, religious and other aspects of the nation’s life. The newspaper is not left out of the current ICT trend. It has an active news portal –www.leadership.ng- which is ranked No. 1 among Northern-based newspaper websites, and ranking No. 5 among top ten Nigerian Newspaper websites (Alexa).
1.8.2 Vanguard Newspapers
According to the Nigerian Vanguard newspaper’s website, the newspaper was established in 1983, but began paper production on Sunday June 3rd, 1984. It was initially a Sunday newspaper, but commence daily production shortly afterwards, on July 15, 1984 precisely. Immediately after the inception, it gained popularity as a reputable newspaper and it now has distribution center in practically all the state capitals. It brings a refreshingly different style to news coverage and also strives to maintain excellent service by utilizing the best media technologies. The online site needs improvement. The motto of the newspaper is “towards a better life for the People.” It aims to serve the people through unflinching commitment to free enterprise, the rule of law and good governance. Between 1988 and 1995, it published among others, Mr. & Mrs. Magazine (a compilation of the popular comic cartoons on the front page of the paper), Lagos Mirror (an evening paper), Vanguard Yellow Pages (a directory), Lagos Law Directory and Sports Now (a weekly publication devoted entirely to sports). As at today, the paper has on its stable, the Daily Vanguard, Saturday Vanguard and Sunday Vanguard (Vanguard, 2017). The newspaper has since added other titles taken care of specialised interests. These include: Financial Vanguard, Allure, Sweet Crude, Hitech, Sports Vanguard and Cyber
life. These titles are so-product specific that no serious policy maker, businessman, Politician, student and/or interests groups would ignore (Vanguard, 2017). Major among Vanguard’s features include: Sports, Advertising, Management and marketing, Maritime, Energy, Hi-tech and Computer, Aviation, Business and Banking, Tourism, Health, Labour, Human Angle and Women affairs, Politics, Education and Insurance (Vanguard, 2017).
The paper circulates 20,000 copies (daily) in Lagos, the nation’s business heartbeat. Others include Abuja-12,000 copies, South-West 15,000, South-South 25,000, South-East 15,000, North Central 18,000, North-East 7,500 and North-west 7,500. These total 120,000 copies with a Print Run of 130,000 copies daily (Vanguard, 2017).
In addition, the paper also features respected columnists like Kola Animasuan, Dele Sobowale, Pini Jason, Tony Momoh, Bisi Lawrence, Ocherome Nnanna, Les Leba, Helen Ovbiagele, Bunmi Sofola, Treena Kwenta, Obi Nwakanma, and many others and also until recently, Aig-Imoukhuede who passed on 23 January, 2007 (Vanguard, 2017). These names make VANGUARD a compelling read for discerning minds. Over the years of the paper’s existence, five editors have overseen its Daily editorial matters, these editors are: Mr. Muyiwa Adetiba 1984-1985 Mr. Akitoye Akiode 1985-1991 Mr. Frank Aigbogun 1991-1998 Mr. Gbenga Adefaye 1998- 2008. Mr. Mideno Bayagbon 2008 till Sept 2016 Vanguard is one of the leading Newspapers in Nigeria today (Vanguard, 2017). It has developed a rich heritage as the most entertaining, refreshing, authoritative, detailed and reader friendly newspaper in the country. The newspaper’s internet address is http://www.vanguardngr.com. The newspaper’s vision is to be the Best Media group with the Widest Reach through innovation backed by excellent service delivery, highly motivated human capital and latest technology.